Speed Reads

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Watch Retro Report's anatomy of a national child-sex-abuse panic


In 1983, police in Manhattan Beach, Calif., arrested a teacher at McMartin Preschool after a mother accused him of sexually molesting her young son. A few more arrests followed at McMartin, then at other preschools, and soon the country was in a panic about an epidemic of child sex abuse tied to Satanic rituals and child pornography. Thirty years later, Retro Report reminds us that, as with many sensational stories in the media, the narrative sometimes gets ahead of the facts. The McMartin Preschool case changed America — for better and worse — but it ruined a number of lives, too. Retro Report digs into the case and talks to some of the people involved, providing both a post mortem of a fascinating, frustrating, little-remembered case and a look at people who tried their best to do the right thing and largely failed. It's worth your 13 minutes. --Peter Weber